The first unmanned and autonomous sailboat successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean, completing the voyage between Newfoundland, Canada and Ireland. The 1,800 mile journey took two and a half months. It was part of the Microtransat Challenge for robotic boats and reinforces the possibility of using unmanned boats for long-haul missions. This could include everything from ocean research to monitoring.
“It’s never been done before,” David Peddie, CEO of the Norwegian company Offshore AS detection, who built the ship, told Digital Trends. “The sailing buoy [robotic boat] crossed this distance alone without incident. The significance of this is that it proves that one can use unmanned surface vehicles to explore the oceans over long periods and over long distances. This dramatically reduces the cost of ocean exploration and therefore allows for much more detailed knowledge of the oceans than is possible with conventional manned technology. “
According to Peddie, the journey was surprisingly uneventful when it came to tackling major challenges. That’s a significant departure from the 20 unsuccessful efforts of teams trying to meet the challenge since its launch in 2010.
“We had to wait a while for the good wind conditions to develop safely; otherwise, the crossing was normal with not too much wind and waves, ”he said. “We had to avoid some oil rigs, but this is not unusual since we are testing in the North Sea.” He also noted that an effort was made to stay clear of other vessels, as there was a risk that the boat was picked up by passing traffic.
The sailing boats cost $ 175,000 each and are powered by on-board solar panels. They send constant GPS data to reveal exactly where they are.
Peddie told us he had no immediate goals to track this feat, although he was interested in doing more tests to see how much wind the boat can handle. “We would like to try to see how it behaves in hurricane conditions,” he said. “But most of our efforts these days are [focused on testing] the performance of the sensors mounted on it and its operation as a sensor platform.